Edwin Onovughakpor Goodwin v Health and Care Professions Council[2014] EWHC 1897 (Admin)

A biomedical scientist used the time taken for his case to come to a hearing as a ground for an appeal against the sanction imposed on him.

The scientist was registered under the name of Onovughakpor E Oseruvwoja and was referred to during the original hearing as Mr Edwin.

Mr E was suspended for 12 months by the Conduct and Competence Committee (CCC) of the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) after it found allegations against him proved in relation to lack of competence in nine specific areas.

Mr E appealed against the decision of the CCC on the basis of the time taken for it to be brought to a hearing, and further substantive matters.

Excessive time

Mr E submitted that the period between his self-referral to the HCPC in August 2011 and the date of the hearing, which began in July 2013, was excessive and had disadvantaged him.

At the time of his self-referral, he had still been in employment. He was dismissed by his employers in January 2012. He claimed that had the proceedings been brought more speedily, and at a time when he had still been employed, he would have been able to afford legal representation and therefore able to challenge more effectively the allegations against him. For the same reason, he also claimed to have been disadvantaged because an interim order against him had not been sought: if such an order had been sought at a time when he was employed, again he would have been able to afford legal representation and, therefore, be in a better position at the time of the substantive hearing .

Mr E raised the issue of delay at the initial hearing, and his arguments were rejected by the CCC. He repeated the argument during his appeal. The Court found that the period taken to bring the matter to a hearing was not excessive. The Court agreed with the decision of the CCC that the matters before it were complex and had taken time to investigate, and that Mr E was required to have a fair opportunity to respond to the results of the investigation.

The time taken did not breach the requirement of Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights that Mr E was entitled to a fair and public hearing within a “reasonable time”.

The Court also held that Mr E had not been disadvantaged by the fact that an interim order application had not been made by the HCPC. The Court stated that any such application would have been made before a full investigation had been carried out and therefore any legal representative would not have had all the material which later came before the CCC during the substantive hearing.

At the outset of his appeal, Mr E made an application for disclosure of the specific area of expertise of one of the members of the CCC. This arose out of the requirement in the relevant rules that one member of the CCC must be “from the same part of the register as a registrant who is the subject of proceedings”. The application was refused. It was accepted that the relevant member was on the same part of the register, and Mr E was not entitled to any more than that; specifically, he was not entitled to know the specific area of expertise of the member.

The substantive grounds for appeal, all relating to challenging the findings made against him in relation to his competence, also failed.

The sanction imposed was upheld by the Court and was not “wrong” for the purposes of enabling the High Court to find in favour of Mr E.